“Oh no! Here they come, The members of the Deadbeat Club.”
Yesterday morning and again today I listened to an album on the way to work that bunted me out of my early morning ritual. Having listened to most of the ‘cool recent releases’ from bands such as Broken Social Scene, Crystal Castles, Titus Andronicus and No Age; no album, save for High Violet by The National, has given me greater pleasure this year than a compilation originally released in 1998.
Time Capsule by The B-52s has slithered into my bloodstream and infected me in a very odd way these past few days. As I moved through its playlist I realized that even though I hadn’t followed the band closely in their hey-day they were nevertheless soundtracking (or name checking) a lot of what was going on around me in the 80s. For example, I remember one teenage evening when my parents were out and I gingerly started to read one of my Dad’s books, a pulp horror novel that had scared me for ages with its frightening cover image. The opening chapter described a truly horrific murder of a teenage boy in his own home; while his parents were out. He had moved through the house drinking his dad’s beer and smoking his mom’s cigarettes before settling down to a private session of self-pleasure unaware of the presence following him through each room. The horror aficionados amongst you will recognize the blaring neon signposts (alcohol, smoking, sex [of a sort]) signaling ‘this kid is going to die horribly’ and he did, before the end of the first chapter; and it terrified me. So yesterday morning when Rock Lobster slammed through my headphones I stopped dead and remembered that kid drinking a beer, smoking a cigarette, turning on the radio, hearing Rock Lobster and thinking to himself, ‘what a fuckin’ beat’; and then the stabbing began. On a streetcar in Toronto, hearing that alien lobster riff I thought the same thing, ‘what a fucking beat’, then before I knew what I was doing I had looked over my shoulder to make sure I was safe. Later, I listened to Roam on the same album and I couldn’t stop thinking of REM, who like the B-52s also hail from Athens, Georgia. Michael Stipe, Kate Pearson, Shiny Happy People, Rock Lobster, Roam. I also thought of a very young Christian Bale screaming ‘B-52, cadillac of the sky, B-52 cadillac of the sky’ in Empire of The Sun and I don’t know what that has to do with anything but I’m completely caught up in it now. I know I haven’t fallen in love with the B-52s overnight but I also know I like them a hell of a lot more than I did this time last week; I also love where they are taking me and what they are making me think of. I love that when the first notes of The Deadbeat Club started up it was immediately familiar and I was convinced that a movie had used it in a very particular scene. A movie that began with kids debating whether or not to embark on a dangerous adventure to save their families and homes from eviction. As they wind each other up into a frenzy of outrage, excitement and righteousness the tv blares in the background; when they leave the room to go hunting in the attic for maps and weapons The Deadbeat Club is playing on the tv in the background. It took me ages to remember the movie but then it came to me; it was of course The Goonies.
A friend of mine has a teenage daughter who recently had a sleepover where (allegedly) nails were polished, make-up was debated and old movies were watched. The old movies in question? The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink and Sixteen Candles. In other words, the same movies we watched at the same age, 25 years ago, soundtracked by The Psychedelic Furs, Tears for Fears, Simple Minds, Altered Images, AC-DC, Spandau Ballet, the list goes on. Music that burns into your brain when you are already running a pretty high temperature tends to leave a deep footprint; who doesn’t think of Simple Minds when they think of The Breakfast Club? But then I began to doubt myself, I decided to confirm my B-52s – Goonies link but could not find a shred of evidence to support it. Thinking I might have the wrong movie I trawled the net with multiple search terms and queries and ‘wikipediaed’ the hell out of both song and band but still, not a sausage. I discovered that The B-52s did in fact soundtrack The Flintstones movie but The Deadbeat Club wasn’t used in the movie and anyway, I have never seen The Flintstones. I finally ‘you tubed’ the video for The Deadbeat Club (because now I am obsessed and loving the song, hitting repeat again and again). In that video I expected to see some sort of movie parody, or at the very least something familiar, but again not a hint of recognition, just a very typical late 80s – early 90s monochrome music video that showed the band relaxing, partying, sharing drinks and chatting with Michael Stipe. Underneath the video were comments from two viewers; ‘why does this video make me cry dammit???’ was the first. The anonymous response simply said ‘probably cause these were great times for most of us:) I feel the same way when I hear these happy tunes that bring back great memories.’ The final response was ‘You hit the nail on the head. Now here I am watching this video from a cubicle the size of a closet remembering those care free days.’
Michael Stipe, Kate Pearson, REM, Shiny Happy People, The B-52s, The Deadbeat Club, Ed Wood, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Roam, Love Shack, Edward Scissorhands, Tim Burton, Rock Lobster, Ferris Bueller, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Back to The Future, The Goonies, Star Wars, Sesame Street and bedtime stories.
I have no idea why one song planted such a firm tether in my long term memory that I could convince myself it had appeared in a very particular scene in a very particular movie when quite clearly, it had not. I loved The Goonies as a teenager (it’s a bit childish and shouty for me now) and I adore the idea of the late night cable channel B-movie presented by Elvira or a silver haired granddad vamping it up as The Count, but I didn’t grow up with this. It Came From Outer Space, Mars Attacks, The B-52s, theremins and flying saucers are of a time and place but whose? I grew up in Ireland which was all kitchen sink and no kitsch. I never liked the reality of American high schools; The Breakfast Club was as close as I wanted to get and that takes place on a Saturday morning well removed from the hustle, bustle and bullying of Monday to Friday classes. But the high school of E.T., the weekend pranks of The Goonies and the small town weirdsville normalcy of The Wonder Years convinced me I had been severely misplaced (or should that be displaced?) at birth. I didn’t grow up in the wrong time or place, I grew up in the wrong time and place, twenty years and thousands of miles off target.
I read the Wikipedia entry for this pesky song that pestered me so and wanted to share it with you; ‘”Deadbeat Club” is about the B-52s’ early days in Athens when they would hang around in cafes drinking coffee. Because they didn’t work, their parents nicknamed them “Deadbeats.” Allen’s, mentioned in the nostalgic song, is a real-life place in Athens, Georgia. Normaltown is a neighborhood of Athens.’
The most revealing words for me in this excerpt are ‘early days, nostalgic and Normaltown.’ These very ideas are so romantic to me that I fabricated an incredibly believable cinematic memory to go with a 20 year old song I must only have heard a handful of times. But here are some actual lyrics from the song itself – ‘Let’s go crash that party down, In Normaltown tonight, Then we’ll go skinny-dippin’, In the moonlight’. An REM song that I have a real affinity with is Nightswimming, the music may be different but the lyrics are linked and the memories of both songs were made for each other, I just wish they were mine.
And what’s all this got to do with films I hear you say? Fucked if I know, um, films have music in them but sometimes music itself can be so cinematic that it creates tiny little movies of its own? Like I said I don’t know.
A friend of mine wrote to me recently suggesting I occasionally write about something happy if for no other reason than to give you all a break from time to time. Well Niall, a made up memory is the closest I can get this week but hey, for a decade that supposedly sucked as bad as it did, at least the 80s gave us The Breakfast Club and The Deadbeat Club. Mwah!